Braves hang on to notch ninth straight win
Medlen goes 7 1/3 strong innings, records RBI; Glaus homers
LOS ANGELES -- He did always want to be a Dodger, so there was a hint of serendipity in Kris Medlen's best start of the season Thursday night, a 4-3 Braves win at Dodger Stadium.
All of Medlen's pitches were working, the best they have yet this season for the Artesia, Calif., native. Some high school baseball coaches were around; a cousin brought his baseball team, too. Medlen's parents unfortunately couldn't see their son's 7 1/3 innings of two-run ball, the longest start of his career. They don't arrive from Texas until Saturday.
"I thought the three pitches were the best they have been for the entire year," said Medlen, who allowed six hits, no walks and struck out four. "I felt something in the bullpen, something in my alignment. I was staying behind my curveball the whole day today."
He even added his first big league extra-base hit and RBI in the sixth inning, a line drive that grazed left fielder Manny Ramirez's glove before slipping under it for a double and a 4-0 lead.
"Dallas Braden would say I'm tasting myself, but it ended up being a big hit because we needed it," Medlen said.
Two RBIs and the fourth homer in five games from Troy Glaus helped, too, and the Braves' win streak reached nine games, the club's longest this season and since 2000.
"Good, let's break it," manager Bobby Cox said through a cigar.
Medlen had some help from his bullpen, and the bullpen also had a scare. Pitching in place of Billy Wagner, who had pitched six of the last eight days, Takashi Saito pulled his left hamstring with two out and none on in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Saito retired the first two batters of the inning before he felt the hamstring tighten on the first pitch he threw to Russell Martin, a strike. After strike two, a pitch Martin took looking, Saito limped around the mound and was removed for rookie Jonny Venters.
"I don't know enough to comment about it, but I didn't hear anything pop or anything like that," said Saito, who was hobbling in the clubhouse. "Of course I'd like to avoid the DL, but if I become a burden on the team then I have no choice. That's something I have to discuss with the trainers and coaches."
Venters threw two pitches: one in the bullpen before he was called to the mound, and one to home plate, a slider low and away that Martin flailed at to end the game. That's all it took for Venters to earn his first Major League save and the nickname "The Vulture" from his manager along with it.
"When I got out there, Bobby said, 'Throw a slider in the dirt,'" Venters said. "So I threw a slider in the dirt, and fortunately he swung."
The Dodgers, like the Braves, won 20 games in May, although their swings against Medlen for the first seven innings wouldn't have told you so. Medlen said he wasn't tired in the eighth, but that's when the Dodgers finally got to him.
Filling in for the injured Chipper Jones at third base, Omar Infante couldn't handle a ground ball to start the inning. Medlen recorded a strikeout before a broken-bat infield single and a line drive to the left, out of the reach of Yunel Escobar, loaded the bases.
That was all for Medlen, who threw 68 of 96 pitches for strikes. Cox said the 24-year-old allowed only two hard-hit balls all night, one to Andre Ethier, who finished 2-for-4 and entered with a .333 average in 75 career at-bats against Atlanta pitching, and one to Jamey Carroll on his last pitch of the game.
"I was very impressed with the number of strikes [Medlen] threw," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "He located very well. He kept the pitches off the fat of the bat. That was pretty impressive."
On came Peter Moylan, who let up an RBI single that plated two runners, the second because of Jason Heyward's errant throw home up the third-base line. The ball caromed off the siding and back to Moylan behind the plate, and his throw home was in time, but Blake DeWitt slid marvelously to the inside, reaching around Brian McCann's tag.
Another run came home on a groundout up the middle, making it 4-3. Moylan walked Matt Kemp to bring up Ethier, who was struck out by left-hander Eric O'Flaherty with a 2-2 fastball.
"'O' came in and got a huge strikeout," Medlen said.
Glaus, the National League Player of the Month, provided the offense again, extending his hit streak to nine games and keeping it in stride with the win streak. He had an RBI single for a 1-0 lead off Hiroki Kuroda in the first and homered in the fourth. Nate McLouth's double later in the inning made it 3-0.
Glaus nearly homered again in his third at-bat, just getting under another high fly to left. With Thursday's homer, Glaus could have gone deep in five straight games had he not been robbed by the Phillies' Raul Ibanez on Wednesday in Atlanta.
Martin Prado's hit streak reached eight with a first-pitch double to start the game.
"We have a streak; [the pitching] is the reason we're in first place," McCann said. "Now we're getting everything. We've been swinging the bats really well the last few weeks, the last month, and we're playing good baseball."
Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.